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Seminar by Dr. Christine Cuskley

QMUL School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Centre for Digital Music Seminar Series

Lectures by Dr. Christine Cuskley, University of Newcastle

Date/time: 4pm-5pm, Friday, 27 November 2019

Location: GC (Graduate Centre) 2.04

Open to academics, students, alumni, public; all welcome. Admission is FREE, no pre-booking required.

Constraints and functions of cross-modal associations: Language, culture and evolution

Abstract: The ability to readily make associations between disparate modalities - e.g., between sound and colour - is something that has been extensively studied over the past half century. However, the mechanisms underlying these associations generally remain theoretical, with neurological, cultural, and learning-focused mechansims often framed as being in competition. This talk will begin by reconciling these mechanisms, suggesting that they are are complimentary factors underlying the phenomena at different levels (e.g., proximate and ultimate). The bulk of the talk will focus on recent empirical work which looks at cultural and cognitive mechanisms in linguistic cross-modal associations, particularly between vowels and colours and non-words and shapes. These results show that (i) culturally specific factors like vowel phoneme inventory and literacy can make make a fundamental contribution to shared cross-modal associations, but (ii) there remain trends which are well-explained by more general cognitive biases. Overall, this favours a complex systems view of cross-modal associations: while they likely have phylogenetically deep cognitive roots, they may well be reinforced and enriched by various cultural and environmental systems.

Biography : Dr Cuskley ( has a background in Psychology and Linguistics and is broadly interested in the evolution of social systems and cognition, with a particular focus on language. She has collaborated with linguists, psychologists, and complex systems scientists to study issues surrounding the emergence, evolution, and dynamics of human language. Dr Cuskley is currently lecturer in Language and Cognition at Newcastle University, working in the School of English Language, Literature and Linguistcs and the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution. She is also an associate researcher in the Centre for Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh.

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